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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Kitchen Bench - Top Choices?

Kitchen bench-top surfaces - a myriad of choices, and a lot of misinformation. This information will help you understand the choices and make informed decisions in the selection of your counter-tops.

In recent years, kitchens have become even more the hubs to our homes, central to our changing lifestyles and family activities. Along with this focus, appliances, cupboard materials and in particular, bench-top surfaces, have become far more sophisticated.

Once the choice was simple .. which colour laminate?

Now we are faced with choices like: which colour, which material, what finish, what thickness, natural or man-made stone?

The choices fall into 4 broad categories, each of which is outlined below -

1) Natural Stones (Granites, Marbles & Travertines)

2) Engineered or Quartz stones (Absolute Quartz, Q-Stone, Essa Stone, Caesar Stone, Silestone) These materials are man-made, however is comprised of 90-93% quartz (or Granite) and the balance is tinted polyester resins.

3) Acrylics (Corian, Freestyle, Avonite etc) Resin based, approx. Sometimes also up to 50% marble and 50% acrylic (plastic) resin. 100% man-made.

4) Laminates (Laminex, Polyrey, Formica, etc)

- 100% man-made.

What Is Granite?

Granite is basically a natural rock or stone, sometimes also called quartz or feldspar. It is formed over millions of years and occurs naturally in every country around the world. 100% natural Granite is the hardest benchtop surface material available. Diamonds are the only stones harder than granites. It is scratch resistant and will last for a lifetime with little ongoing maintenance.

Granite will only scratch when rubbed with another piece of granite or a diamond.

NOTE : Silicon carbide is harder than granite hence green scouring pads made from this material should be avoided on granite and most benchtop surfaces.

Due to the extreme hardness of granite, it is not advisable to cut on bench-top surfaces with knives, as they will blunt very quickly. A timber chopping board is far more practical.

Granite comes in a huge range of colours, most popular being the darker tones. Granite, as a natural product, tends to have a movement of colour, with only a few stones having very even, consistent shading. This for many people is one of its attractions.

However, as with most items in our homes, fashion is also a predominant driver with bench-top colour selection. In recent years whites & creams have been the fashion kitchen colours.

Granites are rare in very white shades, hence the development of Engineered Stone for benchtops. Composition is mainly of stone and hence extremely durable, but then tinted to fashion colours.

What Is Marble?

Marble has been the material of choice for benchtops for the past 500 years. Used in both domestic and commercial applications. It is still the choice of many Interior Designers today for their own homes, but many of these same designers have problems recommending it to Australian clients, as it is less durable than Granites and most Engineered stones.

With modern penetrating sealers, Marbles are now easy to seal and thus avoid the age-old problems with staining from wine, tomato sauce, seasonings etc. However, even sealed marble is affected by anything acidic left on the surface for considerable time.

Champagne or lemon juice if left on for extended periods, can etch the stone and cause it to loose its polished finish. In Europe this is considered normal and totally acceptable.

In Australia, where we are only just starting to develop a true stone culture, this limitation is not yet viewed as normal and acceptance of these limitations may still be a few generations away.

What Is Engineered Stone (Or Quartz)?

Clients wanting light, very even and consistent colours, have a limited range of choices in 100% natural granites. They often don't like the etching issues associated with light coloured marbles, and hence the development some years back of a number of man made or engineered stones.

These engineered stones are composed of aggregate (crushed granite or quartz), mixed with epoxy resins (as used in surfboards, boats, etc) and then tinted with pigments to a desired colour. Composition of these stone range from 85 - 93% Quartz or stone, with the balance being resins / colouring.

They are now manufactured throughout the world very similar formulas and materials.

While not having quite the durability of Granites, they are extremely scratch resistant. Most importantly, they allow a choice of colours, in particular light, even colour shades, not generally available in natural stones. Whites and light cream colours, with differing sized aggregates, are the most popular. Very dark colours tend to show scratches more easily and therefore most owners seeking a darker shade of bench-top, choose natural granites.

What Are Laminates?

ABS statistics show that until recently in Australia, 97% of kitchens in the domestic bench-top market were laminates. These come in polished / gloss finishes through to textured and even leather-look finishes. They are relatively inexpensive and therefore represent good value for money. Hence they still account for approx. 55% of the bench top market in Australia.

However, due to the reduced pricing of stone surfaces they continue to loose ground to the large array of solid surface materials available on the market.

Where finances allow, Australia relatively sophisticated market has accepted stone as their preferred choice, to the point where it is now seen even in the first home buyer market as the norm.

So the options are endless.. each product still has their place in a market demanding value, variety and choices.

What Is Acrylic (Plastic)?

These materials sometimes also use crushed stone (usually a marble), mixed with acrylic resins.

They generally have a far lower composition or % of stone in the mixture and hence are softer and less durable than engineered stones and Granites. These surfaces are promoted as re-polishable bench-tops, meaning they can be re-polished every few years to restore the surface finish.

In recent times, clients wanting durable bench-tops in light colours have selected Engineered Stones and this has eroded the market share of acrylic products. However acrylics do allow for seamless or moulded applications, where owners are looking for bench-tops and splash-backs to look like one continuous surface. Welding of 2 acrylic (plastic) surfaces together, using an acrylic glue, creates the most seamless joints available.

Why Is Absolute Stone Granite Installation So Much Cheaper Than Traditional Options?

Most fabricators purchase stone slabs from their local wholesalers.

While on occasion we do similar, the majority of our jobs are produced from stone we import direct. We then cut and polish slabs to suit each kitchen.

Absolute Stone also produces many bench-tops using a modular system. Edges are pre-finished offshore. Wastage is trimmed at quarry and hence virtually nil waste when final kitchen is cut out, compared with up to 30% waste using traditional manufacturing methods.

Less waste, less shipping costs and quicker installation turnarounds adds up to a very streamlined process...we take away the headaches.

How Is Absolute Stone Diffrent From Other Stone Companies?

- We import our stone sheets in a range of sizes, dramatically reducing waste and hence costs.

- We use stones we import, natural stones from around the world and all leading brands of engineered stone including Essa Stone, Caesar Stone, Q-Stone, Silestone and Quantum Quartz.

- We have all the seen edges on our stones, pre-polished off shore to greatly reduce costs.

- We provide a 20mm square edge cost-effective profile as standard.

- We even polish the under-side of our sheets 150mm in from all edges - so no feeling of rough unseen surfaces

- Pricing; we are usually only 70% of the cost of the 'traditional' granite stone bench-top market and 80-90% of the engineered stone market.

- We use only certified trades-persons to manufacture and to carry out installation.

- Having received a Purchase Order, booked the installation into our system, once called up, we generally install within 8 working days of your cupboards being installed.

- We also provide a splash-back package that is extremely cost-effective.

We provide a full care and maintenance service for existing and new clients alike. Repairs can usually be carried out at site with a minimum of fuss. Stone bench-tops can be re-sealed same day as we call out.